How's it goin?!! It was great to hear from you. Joshy man, that was totally cool about your missionary experience with the recruit from England!! Do you still want to serve your mission in Germany? Halle baby--those drawings from last week were SO IMPRESSIVE. And girlfriend, totally cool that you already qualified for the state meets! Johnny--bummer about the rotator cuff. Still out of commission? did i ever tell you how much i loved the long tennis letter you sent a couple weeks ago? I totally got a kick out of it. Though i do not understand how you remember minute details like that from all the bajillion matches you play. (i think boys must have an extra "sports lobe" in their brains that is programmed to log away non-important statistics and names or what not that you can then throw around in a group of girls to strut how cool and tough you are? somethin like that?! jk) Matthew--i'm assuming you already knew what my response would be to the question of what im getting you for your birthday....? Think Christmas Vacation. In other words, i give you permission to go "get yourself something real nice!" haha you are funny brother. Tara--i sent you a separate email, but im glad things are going well with your student teaching.
Things are goin well around these parts!! We had another good week. Plenty of "unique" and exciting experiences! The only problem is that whenever I have sat down to write you about them on Mondays lately, my mind is just a total blank. Un trou, if you will. This is a serious problem!! So, I'm gonna cheat and start a bulleted list of happenings and highlights and hope it'll give you somewhat of an idea of what is going down here.
Happenings & Highlights
1. This Branch is on fire with missionary work right now. The leadership really gets things going. We've been working with Muzeyi to plan a missionary activity for this saturday that has basically evolved into a mini MTC complete with "zone conferences" taught by the branch president and his assistants (councilors), gym time team relay races (with things like sewing on buttons, ironing shirts, shaving, packing suitcases, etc), and classroom instruction (taught by us and topics focused on how to work together effectively as a member/missionary team to see success).
The theme of the activity is M&Ms!!! (leave it to me to come up with something super cheesy hehe) "Membre et Missionnaire. Comment trouver la joie et l'esprit dans l'oeuvre missionnaire." Soeur Smart and I re-wrote a missionary call letter the other day in the form of an invitation to the activity and we handed them out at church yesterday, so hopefully people will show up, have a good time, and maybe possibly learn something! And even if things don't go exactly according to plan, there will be plenty of M&Ms, so how bad could it be, right?!
The Branch is also organizing a porte ouverte for March that is going to be focused around the articles of faith. They have designed and put up all these totally cool displays with modern language explanations of the articles of faith and what they mean to us, etc. They had a special joint RS/priesthood entirely dedicated to explaining the purpose and goal of the open house and they charged every member/ family to invite at least ten people to attend. The purpose isn't to invite their friends to meet with the missionaries or anything, but just to come and see what "the mormons" really believe. And the members are taking it really seriously, so i bet it will be a really good experience!
Okay, and I promise I'm trying (maybe not succeeding) not to ramble too much, but I have to tell you the Branch miracle from the other day. We're sitting in sacrament and the Branch President gets up and shares an experience that had happened the other day at work. President Bertrand is a volunteer fire-fighter (ya know, in the spare time that he doesn't have.....seriously i don't know how he does everything he does), and i guess he was on duty the other day and a co-worker approached him kinda awkwardly and was like, "so....yeah.....i heard.....well....someone said something a while ago that you are kinda like a ......well i don't know how to put it....but like a priest....like a curator in your church. And i was just wondering, ya know.....if it would be possible......to talk to you about.....i dont know.......having my son, who is 8, baptized?" So, President Bertrand said YES! of course and explained a little to him about the church and the missionnaries. And then added, from the pulpit, "so this week I am going to be seeing him with the sister missionnaires..." Needless to say, we were totally stoked!!! They had to cancel the rendezvous last week, but we're crossing our fingers for this week. So, say a prayer that it will go well!!!!!
2. The pigeon poop count is now at 4. Seriously. I was very much less than pleased. You see there is this bridge at the castle that we usually pass under, because it is a shortcut to the church. But, it is a little bit of a danger zone cuz there are always pigeons a plenty hanging out there. So, we have gotten into the habit of walking up to the border of the bridge, sprinting underneath it, and then walking afterwards. Like we do that EVERY time we pass under it. (Which probably looks really weird to passers-by, come to think of it.) So, naturally, the ONE time we don't sprint it, I get pooped on. Which means, I guess, that I only brought it upon myself. Still...not cool.
3. Our investigator, Marie Laure, is doing great! Or at least she was before she fell at work this week and ended up in the hospital for a few days. I feel like someone/something is really trying hard to keep her from meeting with us (a couple weeks ago it was her son who was in an accident and broke his leg), but she is too awesome and solid!! She has this adorable 11 month old baby girl named Gabrielle, who has probably the biggest, cutest eyes i have ever seen. Our lessons have all gone really well and she just seems to "get it."
The problem is that she can't come to church because she works on Sundays. (But there is one sunday in march that she has off, so she is planning on coming.) Last week, despite the momentary freak out sister smart and i had when the member we were teaching with started to go off about the temple and endowment or something, we had a great discussion about the book of mormon. And at the end Marie Laure didn't want to leave. It was a bit of an awkward like, "Okay....well.....been great ladies....but we have another rendezvous we have to get to!" She is already a natural relief society sister chatter! Definitely meant to be a member. :)
4. I learned a new term from the Cherbourg elders at district meeting last week: bromance. It was quite the entertaining and lively lunch time chat to say the least! I've said it before and I'll say it again--serving around elders always keeps life a little more funny! Like when it is your one year mark and you walk into the church and elder holcombe and elder rueckert pull out this mound of tin foil and are like, "We know you said no presents, but we couldn't help it." "Well gosh guys, thanks for the tin foil. I hardly know what to say!"
JK, once I got through like a joshy-wrapping job amount of tin foil, i found out that there was actually a mini ping pong paddle inside. Which apparently they decided was the perfect size for me. They figured they knew I would need my own personal paddle in order to accomplish one of my transfer goals--which is to beat elder holcombe in ping pong. K and it may be an unofficial goal, but i tell you what, that doesn't mean I'm any less dedicated to it! The trick is finding enough p-day time to get good practice in. I was, however, on an uphill. I was totally getting better! Until we had a minor set back last week. Well more like, i became a complete disgrace. Meaning, Elder Holcombe beat me playing left handed. So NOT good!!!!! I had to lick my wounds a little and finally got over it. However, besides keeping me plenty humble, the great thing about being back in the same area as elder holcombe (this is now transfer 6) is that putting together musical numbers is a piece of cake. And now that we're not in the Paris area, we have just started over from the beginning and no one is the wiser!
5. So, our Omaha Beach and the American cemetary expedition last week was awesome. The visitors center tour is all focused around the Competence, Courage, and Sacrifice of the soldiers and leaders who organized and fought in Normandy leading up to and after D-day. It is inspiring and evoking--pride, humility, and gratitude were definitely some of the emotions that overwhelmed me. But, I have a problem. Even if I'm not super outspoken about it, I am fiercely patriotic. But, it seems to be that my patriotism is located way too close to my tear ducts! Needless to say, it was a wonderful experience (even if my mascara didn't make it out quite as well) and I'm so glad we got to go out there again.
7. Well running out of time, so I'm just gonna summarize by saying that the spider episode at FHE was one for the books, James' baptism was a roaring success, and the team effort in getting Yosephe to set a baptismal date seems to be reaching the fourth quarter (She knows it's true, could probably teach the joseph smith story better than me, and she is more active than a lot of the members; she is just scared of making the wrong choice because there are so many churches. Totally understandable, but dangit she has such a good heart and i just want her to be happy, but she is currently just so frustrated with all these fears and questions. Things will work out, but a few extra prayers that she will receive and recognize the assurance she needs to take the plunge would be greatly appreciated!).
Anyway, sorry for the rambling. It seems I just can't help myself. Having to type fast does not help the problem in the least. So, i wish you luck in trying to understand some of that mumbo jumbo and if nothing else, just know that I am so very grateful to be a missionary. Sure, there are moments that are a little rough and very much less than glamorous, but at the end of the day, it is a wonderful learning experience and unforgettable adventure. So, I am grateful. I may not be perfect, but I know the message is true, and I have never been more certain of that in my life. So I'm grateful for the Lord's patience in giving me opportunities to share it with people here.
In other news, we'll be heading to Paris for two days this week for a leadership training conference (i guess starting in may or sometime, there is a new training in the MTC and they want every missionary to have it). Basically I'm scared out of my mind because there is no way we will make it through this thing without some horribly awkward practice teaching stories to talk about after, but I'm sure I'll be better off for it (that is if i do, in fact, survive :)) Anyway, love you and miss you guys lots and hope you have a great week!!